Restaurant Week is a double-edged sword. It really is.
Sure, you can get amazing deals at high-class restaurants, paying half of what you normally would for a 3-course meal at these kinds of places. But at the same time, a RW menu could be a terrible sample of a restaurant’s true potential, compromising flavor and quality of the food for the hoards of people that flock to New York City eateries during these 2 weeks.
So whenever Restaurant Week rolls around, make sure that you choose your dining institution wisely. Check out the RW menu, look up some online reviews, and decide whether eating there is worth it or if you can get a similarly-priced deal on a prix-fixe menu on any non-RW day. You know, all that good food-nerdy stuff.
Euna and I completed all of the above and more, and we both came up with a handful of places we wanted to go to. We obviously couldn’t go to all of them on our not-so-plentiful college student budgets, so we narrowed our choices down a bit and finally decided on Jean-Georges Vongeritchen’s Spice Market.
Spice Market is the more exotic of Jean-Georges’ restaurants (others include the French-inspired Jean-Georges or the farm-to-table ABC Kitchen), taking inspiration from the many street foods Chef Vongeritchen has eaten on his travels to Asia.
The menu sounded interesting and the flavors exciting, and I’ve always wanted to try fusion food done well. So off we went to Spice Market!
Unfortunately, Euna couldn’t make our lunch date because of bothersome summer cold :(, so our mutual friend Ji-Sun ended up being my dining companion that day.
Alright, so as you can see by the pictures above, Spice Market is absolutely STUNNING on the inside. Huge doors and windows give the place a very open-air feel, and the entire restaurant is designed to make you feel like you’re somewhere in Southeast Asia with lots of aged wood, paper lanterns, and low, comfy chairs. Even the waiters and waitress are dressed in loose, orange and vaguely Asian clothing that kind of reminded me of pajamas…
But the other thing that immediately caught my eyes was…
THE WATER BOTTLE JACKET. You know you’re in a nice restaurant when your bottled water has its own HOME.
Ji-sun had read a lot of good stuff about the house-made sodas here, so she got the Fresh Ginger Ale.
This wasn’t your normal Schweppe’s ginger ale – the freshly ground ginger gave this drink a kick that left a lingering heat in your throat, even with all the ice. It also had that slightly salty taste you get from club soda, but not so much once you mixed the syrup in.
Before our meal officially began, our waiter brought us an amuse bouche of airy lentil chips with a spicy sauce. I didn’t catch what the sauce was made of, but it was surprisingly delicious, a perfect complement to the delicate, salty chips.
For our first course, Ji-sun got the Spiced Chicken Samosas with Cilantro Yogurt.
These plump triangles were filled with ground chicken and spices, with a taste reminiscent of Indian curry. The delicate shells gave the samosas a perfect crunch, and although these didn’t any more seasoning, they went excellently with the green sauce.
My appetizer was the Spicy Thai Slaw with Asian Pear, Crispy Shallots, and Mint. What a gorgeous salad, right? Good but not amazing, the slaw tasted mainly of vinegar with a few bites of mint in-between. The veggies ended up getting soggy towards the bottom of the bowl as well… Maybe this was just a problem of too much dressing?
Ji-Sun got the Chili Garlic Egg Noodles with Thai Basil and Mint as her main course. The noodles had an odd texture, as if they were a little too al-dente, but the flavors were good and we enjoyed this bowl together.
However, my Pollack with Malaysian Chili Sauce and Thai Basil store the show. WOW, this was good in all the right ways! The outside was deliciously crispy, while the other side of the white fish was beautifully cooked and flaky-tender. The sauce was spicy and sweet, similar to the coulis that was served alongside the salmon I had at the Village Green. I was sad to see the serving was so small though…
But that was probably a good thing, because it gave us room for DESSERT!
Ji-sun’s dessert was the Ovaltine Kulfi with Caramelized Banana and Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce. Ovaltine is a malted chocolate powder that you mix with milk, and it was originally developed in Switzerland. Kulfi is an Indian-style ice cream, so put them together and you get a dense, fudgy log of chilled chocolate. This was really sweet, but trust me, that does not mean this wasn’t delicious.
There seems to be 2 kinds of people when it comes to coconut – coconut lovers and coconut haters. I am proud to admit that I’m on the “lover” side. So when I saw the Coconut Cake with Salted Caramel and Guava Ice Cream on the RW menu, I knew that this dessert and my mouth were meant to be. And even you coconut-haters out there have to admit this sounds (and looks) delicious. Covered in toasted coconut, with layers of cake and coconut cream, this was an indulgent dessert, but not as sweet as it sounds. The guava ice cream was vaguely reminiscent of strawberry ice cream and offered this dessert a refreshingly cold note.
Our desserts were a sweet ending to a delicious bargain meal. Sad to say, Summer Restaurant Week is over (yeah, I was kind of slow on putting this post up…) but hopefully this inspires you guys to go out of your way and eat at restaurants that would otherwise be out of your budget. Many restaurants offer year-round lunch prix-fixes that are about the same price as the RW deal; plus, there’s always the Winter Restaurant Week to look forward to!
403 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10014